1974. London - The Anatomy of Motivation.

By C. George SANDULESCU, Stockholm.

(Paper given at the IATEFL Conference, London, January 1974; the account was published in the IATEFL Newsletter No. 33, May 1974.)

(IATEFL    : International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)


            The 'medical' analogy is meant to prompt emphasis on individual (rather than collective) factors in the 'vivisection' of the sets of predictible and unpredictible variables.

            There may be two distinct approaches:    DESCRIPTIVE ('What makes them tick ?') vs NORMATIVE ('peptalk etc to boost it all up'). On the basis of the biological notion of critical period (within which motivation is largely irrelevant), adults could be defined as 'language learners outside the critical period'. There are not only EIA learners (elementary / intermediate / advanced), but also EIA teachers, so classified according to a DLS index (degree of linguistic sophistication), meant to define teacher as merely a role, a full-time career and profession, or both.

            Describing a tentative experiment in 'dissecting'  motivation by ACTIVE observation of 100 learners and 100 teachers, the paper emphasises the importance of ELICITATION PROCEDURES IN Motivation Analysis; rejecting the questionnaire-form as individually misleading, the essay-form is instead suggested, particularly for the I and A learner subclasses (E learner motivation is again largely irrelevant to teaching). A case is thus made for CASE STUDIES.

            There is a clear distinction between MACRO-LEVEL (or Overall) Motivation and the MICRO-LEVEL variety (i. e. motivation for a specific and restricted classroom activity). The paper goes on to 'anatomise'  DYNAMIC as well as COMMUNICATIVE aspects of motivation. By way of conclusion, Active Observation is suggested as a possible sociolinguistic research tool, with emphasis on interactional (external) rather than  psychological (internal) factors.

            The proposal is made to adopt the term MOTIVATION ANALYSIS (alongside the already established Contrastive Analysis, Error Analysis, Discourse Analysis) as a distinct and overwhelmingly subfield of language teaching theory.



(1)            H. N. S. Brookes asked Dr Sandulescu how he distinguished between a student's needs and his motivation, and he proposed to assign degrees of importance to different motives to learning languages -- for instance he would attempt to compare a 'high' motivation in learning a language because of its cultural importance with a 'medium' motivation in learning a language for its future use in communication.

                C. G. Sandulescu replied that need/motivation were psycholinguistic concepts and that the two were inextricably mixed. There was certainly some sense in talking about a teacher getting over to his students the need to learn a particular structure. As to the point about measuring and comparing different aspects of motivation, he said that this must be inevitably personal and relative.

(2)            Dr A.H. King said that in order to be able to use a knowledge of how language works a teacher must also have studied linguistics; just as a mathematics teacher needs to have done calculus. The mind has to be stretched further than what is necessary for use if it is going to be able to make proper use of information at the utilitarian level.

(3)            Miss Marga Gervis, commenting on the previous plea for a knowledge of linguistics by the language teacher, reported the fact that teachers in ILEA were using phonetics. A list of English phonetics and how to use them circulated among themselves.

                The Speaker replied that there are different levels of abstraction and he agreed with Dr King that ideally one needs to know a great deal about linguistics, but the language teacher does need  a minimum of linguistic knowledge.